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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fed. Reserve Official Gives Econ Lecture

On Thursday, Oct. 15, guest speaker Dr. Julie Hotchkiss presented a talk in Twilight Auditorium titled “Can We Really Believe Everything We Read About the U.S. Labor Market?” Her presentation came as a part of the D.K. Smith ’42 Economics Lecture series.

The David K. Smith ’42 lecture series was established in the early 1990s after beloved alumnus and Economics professor D.K. Smith. A gift from the Schaffer family, the lecture series brings a distinguished guest lecturer to the College to give an Economics talk each semester. Past lectures have addressed income inequality, the wage gap between men and women and other economic and social issues.

Hotchkiss comes to the College as a research economist and senior policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. As a labor economist, her work focuses on earning differentials between different groups, employment and earnings trend over long periods of time and policy changes and their effect on the labor supply.

David K. Smith’42 Chair in Applied Economics Phanindra Wunnava was responsible for bringing Hotchkiss to campus.

“[Hotchkiss] is one of the finest labor economists of my generation. I have known her for over twenty years,” said Wunnava.

In her lecture, Hotchkiss argued that current labor market growth is “on track,” despite assertion from the media and press that the U.S. labor market is in peril. She offered insight to address several “misleading” headlines often found in news outlets.

For example, Hotchkiss stated that labor participation being at 62.6% — marking a 32-year low in U.S. history — should be associated with changes not in population but in willingness to work among different age groups. In particular, she noted that labor force participation is decreasing for young people and increasing for old people, countering arguments that lowering participation levels are due to massive drop-offs from older workers.

Hotchkiss also challenged headlines stating that “recovery has created more low-wage jobs than better-paid ones.” She stated that, between 2010 and 2014, more full-time jobs were created than part-time ones.

Likewise, there have been many headlines and studies asserting that the American labor force is shrinking to the point that there will not be enough college graduates to fill available jobs. She countered this with data that demonstrated that the U.S. is actually producing more college graduates than available jobs.

Student reception to Hotchkiss’s presentation has been both positive and engaging.

“Hotchkiss gave a compelling case as to why labor force participation has been so low and helped dispel some of the common misconceptions with labor participation,” said Olena Ostasheva ’16.

“It inspired me to look beyond the headlines when it comes to economic policy issues,” added Marcos Barrozo Filho ’17. ”